The Real World: Students Urged to Intern, Tutor in Urban Schools

During the past several years, the TU School of Urban Education has placed more emphasis on teaching future students how to work in urban environments, better preparing them for real-world experiences after college.

“We want our students to have a broad experience, so we’re trying to get more students into low-income neighborhood schools and also into schools where English is not the first language,” said Diane Beals, associate professor in the School of Urban Education.

State law requires that students be ready to teach students of different races, all ethnicities, genders and ability levels upon graduation. So, in addition to internships, many students also tutor at schools like McClure, Marshall, Gilcrease, Rogers, Mark Twain and Lindburgh.

“If you’ve only done internships in students’ comfort zones, you won’t be ready to teach,” Beals said. “The chances of a teacher getting a job in a wealthy school district are low. Those are the jobs everyone wants because they are thought to be the easiest. But we want our students to see their jobs as an outreach mission and a commitment to the community.”

Another outreach program includes a Partner in Education agreement with Kendall-Whittier Elementary School which is named after Henry Kendall College, the predecessor to TU. “They let us know their needs, and we figure out a way to help them,” said Beals, who serves on the committee.

From holiday presents for the kids – many of their families don’t have money to buy them – to pencils and tickets to TU athletic events, education students find ways to enrich the lives of young students by collecting items from campus organizations. Last year alone, school of Education students were able to take 200 pairs of gloves to the school, in addition to 800 other pairs contributed by the rest of TU.

The School is also helping to encourage disadvantaged middle and high school students in Tulsa Public Schools with the Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP).

Shirley Robards, associate professor and director of field experiences, was awarded grant funds from the U.S. Department of Education to continue the program. The hope is to improve students’ math, science and reading abilities from now through 2011 for students in Tulsa middle schools Cleveland, Clinton, Gilcrease, Hamilton, Madison and Monroe.

“Our students and faculty are out there to make lives better as a result of their teaching,” Beals said. “There are a lot of good teachers in the suburbs but not always in the urban school districts. Those are the schools that need good teachers the most.”